People planning for a Hawaiian vacation, often, have a hard time choosing the right Hawaiian island to visit. While the primary inclination is to head towards Honolulu to experience the luxurious urban atmosphere and extravagant nightlife, this is the very same reason that drives some people towards Kauai, for its uncrowded and laid back experience.
Kauai, colloquially called ‘The Garden Isle’ for its natural beauty and greenery, is the new poster child for a perfect Hawaiian vacation. Although Kauai has a rural ambience, it has its share of exuberant resorts and restaurants to cater to tourists looking for a luxurious experience.
One of the main reasons why Kauai looks underdeveloped is the restrictions imposed on high-rise buildings.To retain the character of the island, commercial buildings are not allowed to go above 50 ft in height.
Buildings aside, Hawaii’s oldest island is decorated with lush rainforests, beautiful uncrowded beaches and breathtaking natural locations. People who love to chase nature and adventure, but resent the tourist congestion in rest of the Hawaiian islands, will find Kauai to be a perfect travel destination to meet their goals.
This blog post will help you discover Kauai and throw some light on what vacationing on the island looks like. Be prepared for a drastically different vacation experience than what you expect from other islands in Hawaii.
Kauai’s Most Luxuriant City – Poipu
Poipu is located on the Southern shore of Kauai, which is also called the ‘Sunny South Side’ for its stable and inviting climate. This is the most luxurious place to stay on the island as it is home to exotic high-end ocean-front resorts like the Sheraton and the Hyatt.
The city offers the best lomi lomi massages on the island. If you’re a foodie, you can treat yourself with authentic island style poke, plate lunches, shave ice and burgers, while at the same time, trying high-end dining menu in some of Poipu’s popular restaurants.
The crescent shaped Poipu beach, which was named the ‘Best Beach in America’ by Travel Channel, is a great place for beachcombing, watching reef formations and enjoying water activities like swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. This is considered one of the safest beaches on the island and is a perfect whale watching spot during the winter months.
Driving a couple of miles along Lawai road will take you to one of the most photographed natural attractions on the island- The Spouting Horn. This natural blowhole shoots water to a height of 40 ft in height with a loud hissing noise.
Other nearby popular attractions include the Koloa Heritage Trail and the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.
The Grand Canyon of The Pacific
A scenic drive along the west side of Kauai will lead you to the Waimea Canyon, also called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The expansive canyon region, formed by millions of years of erosion and rainfall, is both huge and visually appealing with its stunning color palette.
Further up the Road is Kokee State Park, famous for its lush forests, wooden cabins and well maintained camping area. There are numerous hiking trails in the Waimea Canyon-Kokee state park region, with varying levels of difficulty and terrain, ending with mystifying views that will make you fall in love with the island.
The four scenic lookout points along the Waimea Canyon Road reveal the vast expanse of the Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley, changing your perspective of what the island really has to offer.
The Na Pali Adventure
The Napali coast was formed to fulfil the fantasies of people wanting to visit a paradise, locked away from the rest of the world. The coveted 17-mile mountainous coastline is protected from all external influence by the treacherous Kalalau trail on one side and the vast Pacific ocean on the rest.
The easiest way to see the Napali coast is from the Kalalau lookout along Koke’e road, a few miles ahead of Waimea Canyon. The coastline is inaccessible by car and can be reached only by foot, sea or air. The Kalalau Trail is tough and requires a camping permit which is hard to get by, except for the initial 4 mile hike to Hanakapiai falls and beach which is perfect for day hikers.
The most popular option is taking a boat tour, as it helps to access every nook and corner of the coast in vivid detail. This is the only way to explore the intriguing sea caves in the region and also enjoy a Hawaiian Style dinner, watching the beautiful Napali coast sunset.
A boat excursion aboard Makana Charters provides you with views of the entire Na’Pali Coastline. It’s an experience you won’t forget, as you see the spectacular coastline up close—even going inside the coastline into sea caves (weather permitting). You will also have time to snorkel on the coast, see some amazing underwater life, and take photos of the unbelievable Na’Pali Coast scenery from a vantage point only accessible by boat. It’s a can’t-miss experience, and a perfect way to spend a fun-filled half-day on the water.
mIsland Life on Kauai’s North Shore
After enjoying the sunny weather and fun parts of the south shore, you can head over to the rain-prone northern shore of the island. In stark contrast to the luxurious options in Poipu, the north shore town of Hanalei is resort-free and has managed to attract tourists who prefer to live a typical island life. Life is simple in Hanalei as there are no high-end brand outlets and people prefer eating from food trucks over restaurants.
A Popular attraction along the north shore is The Kilauea lighthouse, an old light beacon located on a rocky peninsula (now transformed into a safe sanctuary for exotic bird species). It forms the northernmost point of the island. Another popular spot is Hanalei Bay, the crown jewel of north shore, which is famous for its high surfs and attracts surfers from all over the world.
Kauai is naturally designed in such a way that it can cater to tourists with varying interests. A vacation in Kauai might also turn out to be cheaper than it’s crowded counterparts, which is all the more reason to choose Kauai for your dream Hawaiian vacation.
Do share your Kauai experience with us.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 4 January 2020. It’s been regularly updated since then for relevance and freshness.